Chef Willie of Sonoma offers fine-dining private chef services for special occasion private wine dinners in Napa, Sonoma and throughout Northern California wine country.
A graduate of Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, Willie has 20 years of experience working for award-winning chefs in fine dining restaurants in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Ten years private cheffing in Sonoma.
How I Cook For You
I make, bake, butcher, peel, slice, dice and prepare everything in my kitchen. I’m a gentleman farmer and I “grow my own” - from garden to table. I have a “beau potager et des belles salades” - a small garden for greens, lettuces, herbs, and tomatoes. I have an orchard for figs, and tend some 20 vines for table grapes. I’m an egg farmer and I keep game birds, as a hobby. I use my eggs everyday from my own chickens in my preparations.
To make natural, real food that is nutritious and tasty is what I do.
I eat like an Italian and shop like a Frenchman. In other words I eat whats local and fresh in season, and I shop almost everyday. I take what grows in the ground and I try to turn it into something cool. I like getting what’s good from the farmers market that week. Everything I cook comes from farmers and growers here in Sonoma and Western Marin County. I love bread and my bread comes from the best bakers. I make and bake my own pastries. Besides fine wines, I like to use cool new products being made here in Sonoma County, like good cheeses and olive oil, gluten-free cheese crisps, flavored vinegars and vegan nut cheeses.
From Poultry to Pastry, I do it all.
I graduated in 1990, when nouvelle cuisine was the next big thing. I apprenticed in New York City near the World Trade Center and I worked for Maitre Cuisinier de France Chef Jean-Francois Taquet, then the top chef in Philadelphia. I worked for Taquet for three years everyday and for Taquet’s mentors, French chefs Jean-Louis Palladin and George Perrier, both superstar French chefs. I not only cooked with them, I cooked for them. As garde manger chef, I served Belon oysters and fruites de mer to Jean Louis and foie gras “maison” to George, and they both congratulated me. Those guys were like rock stars before celebrity chefs were on television: Old school French chefs, at the height of nouvelle cuisine on the East Coast.
In my 20-year restaurant career, I worked for many chefs as the food movement really kicked in through the 90’s and always maintained high standards in my cooking and hospitality. I have been a chef garde manger, the grill guy (I later wrote a grilling cookbook), a fish station guy and a pastry chef. I have cooked it all.
I schooled at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School with teachers Catherine Alford, Nick Malgieri, Paul Grimes and Peter Kump himself, and New York City chefs and cookbook food writers of the time. This is before Food Network TV - 1990.
That was when Peter Kump’s culinary school was an un-air-conditioned four floor-walk up on 92nd street on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Day one was knife sharpening and knife skills. I remember executing a pile of perfectly cut mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions as the guy next to me sliced the end of his finger off. Day two was egg day. I ate 14 eggs in various preparations and loved every minute of it.
My mother was from Brittany - a fantastic French woman - and I spent time as a kid in the Loire-Atlantique with my French aunts and uncles and my French cousins. Sea-side French country cooking was in my blood - oysters, fresh fish, eels and crabs, boiled potatoes, watercress salad and lots of bread and butter. And jam. In school, I devoured my NY Times Food section, Gourmet, Saveur and started my collection of classic French cookbooks by the top chefs of the day. I excelled at cooking at culinary school. In class, I stayed focussed, studied. I practiced recipes and did what I was told. As a student I worked hard and sweated it out everyday. I had f0und something I was good at. I learning old-school classic French techniques and developed my baking skills. I made Dijon vinaigrette in a jar (just like my Mom!) for a green salad for class meal, and blew my teachers away. It was easy. I made bread and pastries (my favorite class) and baked baguettes to die for. I aced my final: first course baby vegetables and puff pastry croustillant with beurre blanc sauce, a bouride seafood stew with grilled bread and red pepper rouille and a Simca chocolate cake “La Reine de Saba” - The Queen of Sheba - with Armagnac-soaked prunes filled with candied almonds for dessert. (BTW - Simca (Simone Beck) was Julia Child’s co-writer of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 and Vol. 2”).